Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Useful Japanese Phrases for Tourists

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

In a bizarre twist of fate, I became an engineering manager at work last year. And shortly thereafter, everyone that was reporting to me decided to go to a conference in Japan. I hadn’t planned on going to the conference (because I was feeling kinda travelled out from work stuff already) but what with my whole team going, the fact that I was their manager, and I also happen to speak Japanese, I decided to go.

I thought it might be handy to teach them some Japanese before we went and then I figured, I might as well make a video about it. So here we are.

Inktober 2018

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

My brother has been doing Inktober for a couple years and last year, he posted a sketch wishing me a happy birthday. At the end of his post was a picture of a sketchbook, ink, and some pens. I thought that was a pretty cool gift and decided I was going to commit to doing one drawing a day for Inktober myself.

Well, it turns out that his last picture was of a sketchbook, ink, and some pens that he bought for himself and it coincidentally arrived around my birthday. But by the time I realized that, I felt mentally committed to the idea of doing a drawing a day, so I decided to go through with it.

I usually spent a couple hours on each one, split between thinking of an idea, sketching some ideas, doing a pencil drawing, inking it, and coloring. For the inking and coloring, I used a set of brush pens that I got at a Japanese stationery store, which were fun to use but kinda limited in color. In particular, it was tough getting shades of brown. I feel like my drawing style is all over the place, but there are a few that I felt pretty good about.

The drawings are all on my Instagram account but they’re here as well:

Magic Hair Color Remote

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

I had decided to dye my hair again when I came up with this silly idea for a video that took advantage of my changing hair color. But it involved me using the same camera setup (ie., my laptop) over the course of several days as I changed my hair color. That … turned out to be a lot trickier than I had anticipated.

Note to self: try to avoid doing multi-day shoots with the same camera setup.

On another note, Dyson is getting more reluctant to appear on camera. But he gets super embarrassed if I try to The Floss dance and will run up and stop me if he sees me start to do it. Ah, the joy of embarrassing your kid.

Go See Incredibles 2!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

MachIncredibles2It’s been years since I’ve worked at Pixar. But the very first Pixar movie I worked on was The Incredibles and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel for a while. I was an effects artist on the original movie and did Violet’s force field, Frozone’s ice walls and ice bridges, and a bunch miscellaneous effects like the explosion in Edna Mode’s suit test room. So I was very curious about the new version of those effects.

Well, I had a chance to see an early screening and they look amazing. Also, the movie is a blast. The action sequences are exhilarating, there are lots of laughs, and the family dynamic is just as strong as ever. It’s funny, so much has happened in the 14 years since the first one came out. I’m a dad now and I can relate so much more to the challenges of work and family. Someone asked me if I thought the sequel would struggle now that there are so many super hero movie. I don’t think so. The Incredibles movies are really about that family and their love for each other. It just so happens that they have super powers.

Funny story: I got an email a couple years ago from my friend Vincent Serritella who still works at Pixar. He was starting to work on the sequel and wanted to know if I remembered how I did Violet’s force field. Unfortunately, I have a terrible memory. But I did remember that Sarah Vowell, the voice of Violet, came to give a talk at Pixar around the time I was working on the first movie. And I thought, it’s kinda cool that I get to hear her talk since I worked on the effect for her character. And then I thought, it’d be neat if I got her to sign a copy of the shader code that I wrote as part of her force field effect. She thought it was pretty funny and graciously signed it. Years later, lo and behold, I still had that signed copy. So I scanned it and sent it to Vincent.

I don’t think Vincent or the rest of the team actually used any of the code. But it’s kind of neat to think that a part of what I did there lived on in spirit in the sequel.

A Cappella THX Logo Theme

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine shared a post that THX made showing a score for their Deep Note sound. It turns out that the score isn’t totally accurate, but it’s still pretty representative. So I wanted to see if I could do an a cappella version of it.

I’m not a great singer but most of the notes were more or less in my range. So I went into GarageBand and for each note at the end, I picked some random notes in that G2 to G3 range, and sorta glissando-ed to the final note. I doubled the tempo because it seemed a little too slow as written. There were 30 tracks in all (3 tracks each for most of the final notes and 2 each for the bottom 3 final notes) so that took a little while. I dropped the top note by an octave and raised the bottom 3 notes by an octave so I could sing them a bit better. (I think the bottom notes are outside the range of human vocal chords.) And then I recorded me singing with each of those 30 tracks playing in my earbuds, pitch corrected the 4 notes in Final Cut Pro X, and edited the whole thing together.

Anyways, by the end of it, my throat was pretty sore but it was a fun experiment to recreate an iconic sound from my childhood.

March Madness

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

I know almost nothing about sports. But I had this idea for a video where I make a prediction about some sporting event and then a followup video about how my prediction came true. It happened to be towards the end of March Madness (it’s an American college basketball tournament) so I scrambled to make it happen in time.

If you check out the publish date for the first video, you’ll see it actually is from before the final 3 games. And then this next video is after that when the prediction comes true:

So how’d I do it? I just made every single prediction (so 8 videos in total), briefly published them all, unlisted them, and then made them public again after the final. I guess that’s a lot of work for something I don’t think many people will ever notice. But I thought it was a neat idea.

Another idea I had was to make some sort of choose your own adventure type series. So this is kind of a test of that as well. Some facts I discovered about YouTube’s end screens are:

  • They can only start after 20 seconds of your video.
  • They have to be at least 5 seconds long.
  • They can’t start any earlier than 20 seconds from the end of your video.

In other words, they only work on videos that are at least 25 seconds long and for maximum flexibility, should be at least 40 seconds long. I ran into this because my original versions of the “Yes to adventure” and “No to adventure” were actually less than 25 seconds long.

New YouTube Partner Requirements

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

I got an email the other day that said I was no longer eligible to put ads on my videos because they changed the requirements. Now you have to have at least:

  • 1000 subscribers to your channel and
  • 4000 hours worth of your videos have to watched by people in the past 12 months

It’s not a big deal since I only made, like, a couple bucks a month off YouTube. Mostly, it was kinda funny to be able to say that I was a professional YouTuber. So I was curious how close I was to the new requirements and I was surprised to find out that I actually had already met the first one. That’s surprising because I don’t know of anyone that’s subscribed to my channel. My wife doesn’t even watch my videos. I was also surprised to see that I was actually about a quarter of the way to the second requirement. So that’s what gave me the idea to do this video.

My kid asked me why it takes so long to make a video. In his mind, if it’s 7 minutes long, it should take 7 minutes to make. Well, here’s a rough breakdown for this video:

  • 1 hour for the script
  • 1 hour for prep (costumes, accents, locations)
  • 6 hours for principal photography (costume changes and many, many takes because I mess up a lot)
  • 2 hours for post (adding music and editing)

My revenue is typically a little under $1 for 1000 and I generally get 100-200 views per video (which is about 99-199 more than I would expect). Even if I could put ads on this video, I’d guess it’d generate about 25 cents of revenue, which is a hilariously low return for 10 hours of work. So that joke in there about it being less than minimum wage at even 125 times the revenue is true.

So why do I do it? I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately. When I started, I had these fantasies about being able to do this kinda thing for a living. And I’d get kinda stressed about it. But now, it’s just a fun thing to do. I think having a good job and stable finances is a big part of it. The tricky part is finding the time to do it all because, as you can see, I’m pretty slow at this. But as it turns out, Dyson had a track meet and a kid birthday party to go to this weekend and my wife was fine with taking him on her own.

Oh, about the “music” in the video: I just made up the “outro” thing and improvised the cheesy piano thing at the end. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were things my unconscious remembered hearing from somewhere else. These are things I’d be concerned about if I were doing this professionally. But one of the joys of doing something as a hobby is that you don’t have to worry about these kinds of things.

A Japanese Haircut

Monday, February 5th, 2018

I’ve been cutting my hair more or less the same way for a while so this time I decided to switch it up a bit. I think the biggest difference is that I kept it a bit longer on the sides.

On a meta note, do people even blog anymore? Or has it all gone to social media? I have no idea if anybody even reads this site but even if they don’t, it’s kind of a nice way to record stuff I did, for myself.

I do Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and at some point, I might even Instagram but it’s all over the place. So it’s nice to have one collection of everything I’ve done and a blog seems well suited for that, even if no one else ever sees it.

Selector iOS Update

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Selector icon progression.

Ooh, new flat icon style. So modern…

I’ve updated my iOS app, Selector, and you can get it now on the iTunes store. Years ago, I made this simple little iOS app where a number of people touch the screen and it selects one. That’s it. Oh, it also has a clock, a compass, and lets you draw because … reasons.

It’s a modest app, getting a couple downloads a week, but I hadn’t updated it in years and people were getting notices that it would stop working on future versions of iOS. Surprisingly, I even got a few emails about it. So this past weekend, I decided to do something about it. I mean, how long could it possible take?

11 hours later…

Well, okay, that took a little longer than I thought. Here’s what it entailed:

  • Downloaded the latest Xcode and updated all the provisioning stuff.
  • Fixed aspect ratio by updating the launch image with a storyboard.
  • Updated NIB files.
  • Created a new icon.
  • Switched from deprecated UIAccelerometer to CMMotionManager.
  • Replaced deprecated AudioSessionGetProperty() function calls.
  • Updated screenshots.

Psychic Retirement Planning Services

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

I was chatting with a friend a while back and had this silly idea: what if the person helping you plan your retirement was psychic? I didn’t do much with the idea until this weekend when my wife and kid were out for the afternoon and suddenly, I had time to actually do something with it.

So I wrote a quick script, figured out my second location, and then shot the thing. It took a few hours because I kept on messing up my lines. (It’s hard being the director, cinematographer, and actor simultaneously!) And then came the editing, which I thought might be interesting to talk about. Take a look at this bit of the timeline from my project (in Final Cut Pro):


Notice anything? “Charles” is the more laid back character and “Tyler” is the more frenetic one. You can see that in the where because Tyler starts his lines before Charles even finishes. It’s a pretty subtle effect but hopefully adds to the overall flow of the piece.

And this has been your director commentary for a 2-minute short.